The Competition Commission must stump up £3.7m to pay for the whole sorry saga, it's cost the multiples a cool £20m in defence costs, and the only ones laughing all the way to the bank have been opportunist consultants who must now turn elsewhere in search of easy lucre. Yet, in the end, the official publication of the Commission's 1,122 page verdict on supermarkets (available from the Stationary Office at a special rip-off rate of £80) was an anticlimax. The main points had been leaked and even sniping tv hacks found little ammo. So the hapless Stephen Byers will forego a trip behind a Tesco trolley this weekend. He won't want to be reminded of the futile, two year political fiasco. Mind you, the multiples weren't exactly cracking open the champers during the Food Industry Awards dinner in London on Tuesday. For now comes another challenge drawing up that much talked about statutory code of practice, and convincing OFT regulators and doubting small producers that supplier abuse is off the agenda. The code issue will ensure supermarkets stay near the edge of the political spotlight. And while there are those who believe a voluntary version might have worked, perhaps, in the end, the best way the top chains can show their sincerity is to accept the legally binding version without too much legal quibbling. It's important that the refreshing spirit of co-operation, which has prevailed among grocers and farmers' leaders since a farsighted Nick Brown suggested a code last April, matures into stronger plough to plate relationships. Although Byers wants chains with 8% more of the market to agree a code, it's hardly surprising that smaller suppliers are calling for all multiples to be included. And presumably the trading relationships between manufacturers and farmers will also be included? Meanwhile grocery retailing remains an easy target for media critics and opportunist politicos, especially with an election on the horizon. The DTI's Rip-off blustering may be discredited, but fresh challenges loom. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}